Jharkhand Assembly elections: Voters keep parties guessing

Reaching out: Congress general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra being greeted by party workers at an election rally at Pakur in Jharkhand on Wednesday.   | Photo Credit: PTI

As the campaign for the Jharkhand Assembly election came to an end on Wednesday, the unpredictable voter mood is keeping both the BJP and the Opposition alliance, comprising the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha and the Congress, on tenterhooks.

The two major opponents have channelled all energies into getting the major chunk of 16 seats in Santhal Pargana in the final phase on December 20, with no clear pattern emerging from the previous four phases.

From the BJP’s preference for a five-phase election in a small State, it became evident that the saffron party wanted to use all resources at its disposal and its strong cadre base to negate the anti-incumbency factor. The party began its campaign on the plank of development including industrialisation, benefits of central schemes and job creation. However, the issues did not resonate enough with voters leaving the electoral battlefield wide open.

Ties with AJSU

The woes of the BJP worsened as some of the candidates who had joined the party just before the election were found short of expectations. In at least 15 Assembly segments where the Kurmi community has a sizeable population, the BJP’s prospects are said to have taken a hit following the break-up with its former alliance partner, the All Jharkhand Students’ Union (AJSU). The regional party has a good support base among Kurmis.

Moreover, the image of Raghubar Das, the first Chief Minister to complete the full five-year term in Jharkhand, reportedly did not augur well for the saffron party.

“Since its formation Jharkhand had always seen a tribal leader assuming CM’s charge till Mr. Das’s ascent to the top post. He was seen as an outsider. Many did not like the way Mr. Das conducted himself in public. His straight talking and treating subordinates with disdain sent a wrong signal to voters,” said Professor V.P. Sharan, a political analyst.

Rebellion against CM

The Chief Minister faced rebellion in his home turf with his former Cabinet colleague Saryu Rai challenging him in the East Jamshedpur seat. Party insiders said the third and fourth phase had not gone well for the party.

To make up lost ground, the BJP deployed two of its trusted star campaigners — Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah — in the last leg of the campaign. Playing up the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019 in the region, where Bangladeshi infiltration had been a major issue, could bring them rich dividends through consolidation among Hindu voters.

The alliance of the JMM, Congress and RJD took time to recover from the crushing defeat it received in the Lok Sabha election. If there was a silver lining, it was the coming together of the JMM and the Congress who had fought the 2014 Assembly election separately. Unlike in the last Parliament election, the JMM and the Congress coalition appeared to have worked more cohesively this time. JMM executive president Hemant Soren, who had been holding an average six meetings a day, said he was hopeful of outperforming the BJP.

“The Raghubar Das Government has tried to dilute land laws in the State in order to facilitate easy acquisition of land for industrial houses. If noodle factories set up their facilities in the State, can somebody call it industrialisation? The government has also failed to generate employment. It has damaged the whole governance structure in the State,” Mr. Soren said.

In its campaign, the JMM-Congress alliance focused on giving rights over natural resources to Jharkhand natives.

The alliance hopes to pick up seats here and there through strong individual candidates in BJP’s strongholds and capitalise in in its own bastion.

The electoral battle in Jharkhand seems to be evenly poised. As per predictions, it will be difficult for parties to get to the 41-mark on their own in the 81-member House. Political analysts said it is a race to the magic figure of 35. Whoever would get closer to it, the AJSU and independents can come in to help them cross the half-way mark.

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Printable version | Oct 19, 2021 11:50:14 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/elections/jharkhand/jharkhand-assembly-elections-voters-keep-parties-guessing/article30341591.ece

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